Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Beyond the likeness of human . . .

Reading in Isaiah today, and this verse caught my eye:

Isaiah 52:14, "His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man, and his form marred beyond human likeness."

And it kind of stuck in my craw. Not the verse itself, but the way some preachers like to sensationalize the cross event. The way they play it up. You know what I mean, those guys who make out like Jesus had more physical pain inflicted on him than any man before or since.

Now I just don't think that's true. Certainly execution by cross was horrible and painful. After all, that's where the word excruciating (ex crucae, "from the cross") came from. But one man's pain from flagellation and then crucifixion would likely be as excruciating as the next. And yet you occasionally hear some guy who focuses on the pain and the disfigurement of Christ as though it were entirely unique in the experience of humankind.

It just makes me think, because it's not the extremity of Christ's pain that saves us, but the extremity of His sacrifice. It's not the sensationalism of His suffering, but the purpose of His passion. Whether He shed one drop of blood or buckets, it makes no difference. The difference is that He did it for me . . . despite every bit of obvious evidence that I am unworthy, He chose to suffer the indignity of those wounds for me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Submission for the best single Law-Gospel Bible verse of them all . . .

Just reading Hosea. I know, I know . . . "why Hosea, of all things? You mean you just really had to hear a story about a guy marrying a prostitute?"

Yeah, I know. Seems kind of odd. But I stumbled across a verse I knew but hadn't thought of in a long, long time.

Hosea 6:1 "Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.

He has torn us to pieces . . .
Amazing that God has the power to strike terror into our hearts . . . and that at times He actually uses it. Forcing us to recognize our utter dependence upon Him. Demonstrating clearly that He is God and we are not. Shredding every last ounce of the false reality of self-reliance. God's vicious mercy.

But He will will us . . .
Despite the agonizing blows of life, despite the fact that God has struck us so hard our ears are ringing . . . we look to Him in faith. Realizing that He has orchestrated events in order to call us back to Him. We confess that He is God and that in Him alone we find true peace.

Is God a sadist? No, no, of course not. Is He an abusive husband, beating His wife into submission? Again, the answer is clearly "No." So how to explain Hosea's words that God has torn us to pieces, that He has injured us?

It is a severe mercy. A mercy that uses the only language we will at times understand: the language of pain. Pain rouses us from our self-satisfied slumber to full awakening. Alert with newly-sharpened senses still sizzling like alcohol poured onto a cut, we at last see God for the majestic, awesome God that alone is worthy of our worship. We turn at last from our selfish selves to Him . . .

. . . and He binds our wounds and in Him we find peace.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

It's not often . . .

It's not often I like to be up at 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

But tonight I go to a few hours of blessed sleep, confident in God's love for me in Jesus Christ. I have had the privilege of meditating upon Him and His great works for the past few hours. I feel no stress about what the morning may bring. I feel no anxiety over my qualifications as His servant. I am satisfied in the quiet hours to hear His voice and rest in Him.


I could sing of your love forever.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Duty . . . or doody?

So my wife has to run into town to go to an OB/GYN appointment, and I agreed that I could come home and watch after the children while she and the older two kids went to the appointment and then ran some errands.

So I'm just getting settled in, set up my laptop and arranged my books that I'm using to prepare for my new sermon series. Just as I'm ready to begin work in earnest, the baby approaches me. He's got something in his hands, which isn't unusual as in a family our size there's always something on the floor for him to find.

As he gets nearer to me, however, I jump back, realizing I don't want what he's got to offer. Yes, that's right . . . he had been digging in the back of his diaper and was bringing me the rather soiled fruit of his efforts.

Quickly steered him to the bathroom, dumped him in the tub, rinsed him off, washed him off, and then had to scrub out the tub as well. New diaper, new clothes, and now I'm finally back to work.

And people say ministry doesn't have it's occupational hazards!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Leaders and leading

I've had the opportunity in recent days to think over leadership. I've been pleased to find that certain things I thought were essential in theory have been proved to be critical in reality. But I've also realized that some of very things (one of which I'll discuss below) is not something that I've actively put into practice.

How do leaders lead? Well, by influence, of course. If you have no influence, you have no followers. If you have no followers, you are not leading. It's that simple, really.

But how do they lead beyond their immediate circle of influence? In other words, how does a leader expand his/her sphere of leadership beyond the handful of people that he can directly influence? By developing other leaders.

Leadership follows a cycle. It is born, it grows, and it recreates itself. Quite simply, if a leader fails to develop new leaders, if a leader fails to recreate leadership in others, then his leadership is doomed to a very short life-cycle.

It's easy enough to see this in the Scriptures. Take Jesus, for instance. For three years He ministered to the people in Galilee, Jerusalem, and surrounding areas. But while He was ministering, He was also developing a ragtag group of twelve bumblers into a group of leaders that would turn the world upside down one day.

Beyond the Scriptures, church history also tells us that the Disciples themselves also recreated the same leadership in others that Jesus had created in them. The Twelve, in turn, discipled others. They showed them--by teaching and by example--what it meant to be a church leader. The Twelve, like Jesus, also realized that they must invest in future leaders. Though it's something of an over-simplification, it is nevertheless true that the Twelve mentored the Ante-Nicene Fathers, the Ante-Nicene Fathers the Post-Nicene Fathers, the Post-Nicene Fathers in turn gave what they had to others who followed them. Christianity would certainly not have survived without leaders begetting leaders.

I believe it remains the same today. As I lead, I must also be careful, be deliberate about developing new leaders. And I realize that thus far I've had good intentions. I've developed leaders as the opportunity came to me, but I wasn't deliberate. That must change in me, as it must in any leader.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I am sick

I am sick because of how much of my heart is yet ruled by past hurts.

I am sick because of how much of my mind still obsesses over what should have been.

I am sick because I cannot forgive, and refuse to forget.

Lord Jesus Christ, help me to remember again today how much I have been forgiven in you. Here are the shards of my splintered heart . . .

heal them.

Here is my divided mind . . .
restore it.

Here are my frustrated, forced, feeble, frantic hands . . .

Take them into your nail-scarred hands and bring me release.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Short-sighted or blind-sided?

Acts 9:14-16 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

It occurs to me that what God had in mind wasn’t an instant gratification nor a complete revelation of Paul’s future. He gave Paul no vision showing all that he must suffer for the sake of the Name. There was no dream. There was no Divine voice. The Scriptures offer no record that He indicated to Paul in any way the extent of his future suffering for the sake of Christ; He merely told Ananias that He would insure Paul knew how much he must suffer.

And what if He had told Paul? Would Paul have shrunk back from his mission of His message? Would he have the strength, at this infant state of His faith in Christ, to willing go where God would lead him?

Perhaps suffering serves a purpose. I personally believe that it does. But if it is to accomplish God’s divine purpose it cannot be suffering that knows every jot and tittle of the outcome. Paul had no such assurances, and neither do we. Is it necessary that we know why God has placed a burden upon us? Is it not enough to merely know that He shoulders the burden alongside us? To know that He is working to accomplish His good through us from what we perceive as an evil laid upon us?

Friday, February 10, 2006

One thing I ask

“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.”

Yes, Lord. This is what I ask. Take me, mold me, use me, shape me for Your service. I ask for no smaller task than what You choose to set before me, I ask for no smaller burden than what You would place upon me, and I ask for no greater reward than to be with You.